Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A courageous heroine

Yesterday I attended a program that centered around an impersonation of Eleanor Roosevelt. I've read a lot about this gifted and amazing woman, and I've seen the Ken Burns' TV series on the Roosevelts. So I already knew a fair bit about her life. But somehow yesterday's presentation—in which the impersonator dressed in clothes of that period and spoke as Eleanor about her experiences and what she felt as she lived through them—brought home to me in a deeper way the courage of this woman.

Eleanor grew up afraid of nearly everything. She grew up with no real affection or affirmation from her mother, who belittled her and made her feel plain and ugly. Although raised in a wealthy family, she experienced a lot of adversity and grief along the way. As we know, money doesn't protect anyone from pain and grief.

What stood out for me was what Eleanor said each time a new (and frightening, for her) situation or challenge arose: Yes, I'm afraid, she said, acknowledging her fear. Then she would do everything she could to rise above it. Her motto seemed to be: "Feel the fear and do it anyway," a saying we hear often today.

This was a good reminder to me. It's so easy to simply say, "I couldn't possibly do that." Instead, I want to remember to admit to the fear—and then find a way to overcome it, to go ahead and do that thing that seems so frightening. It's how we grow. It's how we expand on the gifts we've been given—and sometimes it's how we even discover gifts that have been latent inside us for years. So today I'm inspired by the courage of a woman who also had lots of fears but who made a real difference in the lives of others.

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